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The Boss Baby: Family Business — the sequel to Dreamworks Animation’s 2017 comedy — opens in theaters this weekend, reuniting boss baby Ted (Alec Baldwin) with his older brother, Tim (James Marsden). In the film, helmed by Tom McGrath, the brothers are both now adults and embark on a new mission with Tim’s infant Tina (Amy Sedaris), a top secret agent for Baby Corp.
Based on the books by Marla Frazee, McGrath developed the Family Business story with screenwriter Michael McCullers. McGrath previously directed the original Boss Baby and the three films in DWA’s Madagascar series (while voicing Skipper the penguin).
Tell us about returning to the Boss Baby world and the new baby.
Working with Alec is always great and the premise of a baby running the household was such a fun idea. The first movie was kind of a two hander between two brothers. And this felt like an opportunity to have a strong female character. [We already had] the old mad men school of business like boss baby represents. [Tina] could be the voice of a millennial generation that’s a little bit more in tune with their feelings and probably have a better work-life balance. I thought we could give her a unique voice that more embraces teamwork, more of the glass half full. Amy Sedaris really brought the character to life.
When The Boss Baby opened (in March of 2017), Alec Baldwin’s baby was getting comparisons to Donald Trump. Was this on your mind when you make this sequel?
What’s interesting about that is we were done with the first movie before he did Trump on SNL. And a lot of people thought it was a comparison. I think people try to find connective elements. In Russia, they thought we had based boss baby on Putin. … We intentionally avoided all that [in this movie]. Alec was really particular about that too. He wanted boss baby to be boss baby, and not a caricature of anybody we know in the real world.
Would you talk about the family dynamics in this movie?
You always want to have a personal angle on it. Some gravitate to the father-daughter story, some the brothers or the sister story. For me, I started making movies with my brother when I was 10, and then at a very early age he had a family. We kind of drifted apart. … I think he was always slightly envious of me because I got to pursue the filmmaking career. I was always jealous of him because he was able to have a wonderful family. It makes you think, what is success? To me, I always think what my brother did–raising his family–was much more successful. So we kind of applied that to the brother’s story a little bit. Ted grew up hard wired for business, ran his own company. Tim’s a stay at home dad. Sometimes you can drift apart and our underlying theme was, it’s never too late to have a second chance with family.
Would you discuss the role of cell phone technology in the story.
The Boss Baby was based on the time before all the technology, which is more or less kind of this amalgam of the ‘70s and ‘80s, intentionally. Sometimes in a film, phones can make it too convenient for characters. Since we were 25 years later in this film, [we] embraced the technology. At kids’ events or school plays, all the parents would watch it through their phones—everyone watches the world through their phones. We just thought we could shine a spotlight on that idea that maybe we’re so dependent on this technology, that it could be an Achilles heel, particularly for parents. And so our villain [would prey on] parents that are are glued to their phones. It’s not so much of a message, but a wink to say “hey, put down your phones every once in a while. You might miss out on life. Don’t get too dependent on them.”
What is your takeaway on remote working during the pandemic?
It was challenging to do a film, half of it, from home. A year and a half of production was done from home. As we got into the rhythm of it, it became easier to do. I think it works with our actors in the process because we allow them to ad lib, it’s encouraged. So because [these movies] take us so long, when Amy Sedaris ad-libs, I could go back with Alec and he would do an ad-lib based on her ad-lib. Working from home, it really united [the production team]. In holding the meetings, what I really liked about it is I could see everyone’s faces and you always want to create an environment where it’s collaborative to let people have an opinion or let people have an idea. Everyone could be seen, everyone could be heard and that’s the best environment.
Would you be open to revisiting The Boss Baby world and/or Madagascar and the penguins?
I would always love to. You know, the penguins, were lucky to have the three films to really kind of bring them all the way back to the zoo, but I love the characters and I love working with the cast. It really depends on the story, and even with this movie, I took some time off after the first one. The studio said they were interested in the sequel and I wasn’t really sure. I wasn’t really sure what the story would be. And it took me six months to kind of figure it out and work with Michael [McCullers]–it was that wishful thinking of like, if you could go back in time as a child with what you know now, what kind of fun would that be? And that was kind of our genesis for this movie.
Interview edited for length and clarity.
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